Born 1976, Sydney
Lives and works in Sydney
6 July — 22 July 2023
The Gothic, as it is known in literature and art, had its genesis in Europe in the 12th century CE, eventually being subsumed into the Renaissance period. Yet characteristics of the aesthetic—an air of foreboding, mystery and passion—persisted in iterations of Renaissance art, standing in countenance to the Enlightenment’s rational exuberance. The Gothic found new fertile ground in the shadow of science’s light—nature, religion, and the human spirit intertwining. Artists and writers, who in the face of Humanism, continued to be inspired by the intangible world, ethereal nature and theological mysticism—kept alive the legacy of the Gothic within the Western canon.
One such artist, the celebrated 19th-century Spanish painter Francisco Goya, epitomised the echoing of Gothic in the age of Romanticism. In the latter half of his career, Goya painted on the walls of his home, —a series known as the ‘Black Works.’ Amongst these paintings, El Perro (the Dog), 1819–1823, is considered especially profound. Within the minimalistic composition, the ambiguous subject of a dog’s head is situated in an amorphic mass of colour. Somehow prophetic, the void envelops the hound—yet there remains hope of survival. It is a perspicacious work in the sense that it points, not only to the origins of the Gothic, but foreshadows the tonal abstractions of Rothko over one hundred years later.
It is through this paradigm that we view Chris Horder’s new body of work. The artist has long been an innovator. His abstracted ‘stain’ paintings are heavily process driven. Horder uses sunlight, ink and water, overlayed with oil paint that dances on the surface as if in Dante’s inferno. Images emerge out of his constructed vortex as he plays the counterparts of light and dark—always maintaining a balance between the two. One may consider the palette subdued—the artist is at pains to find that hope exists in a world beset with challenges.
Traditional notions of ‘landscape’ are challenged in these works. We are not looking through the world—rather we are enveloped in it. There is a sense, through the vitality of his practice, that we are in a state of flux. The artist’s dynamic process unifies the picture plane, interlinking elements with a quality akin to a medieval tapestry—a nod to the original Gothic era. The narrative is revealed to the audience, but only as they open their mind to the poetic world. Horder’s immense power and restraint within his methodology results in paintings that invite us into a labyrinthian journey. Extracting light from darkness and hope from despair, the artist reminds us of nature’s impenetrable beauty.